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Chattanooga’s Custom-Built De-Icer for Protected Bike Lanes Is Adorable

Photo and video: City of Chattanooga.
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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

As we wrote the other day, clearing snow and ice from protected bike lanes isn't hard. It just requires some effort.

Fortunately for Chattanooga, Tennessee, that's no problem. This winter, to keep their protected bike lane on Broad Street rideable through the snow, road crews there set up a Kawasaki Mule to trickle just the right amount of brine into the space between curb and planters:

As other cities have discovered, early de-icing treatments can be especially useful on protected bike lanes, because unlike cars, bikes don't tend to splash liquid de-icers away when they pass through. And early de-icing is especially important, because bike tires don't break thin layers of ice as they form. If you don't de-ice a protected bike lane early in a big snow event, the lane could be out of commission for a day or more.

Tony Boyd, deputy director for Chattanooga's operations team, said Wednesday that this was the city's first attempt to create a machine for de-icing bike lanes and it's working well so far.

"That Kawasaki Mule is used downtown to do a lot of our herbicide applications," he said. "We just picked up a polypropalene tank from the co-op and had our shop mount it on a palette so we can take it in and out of the unit when we want to. ... We built a PVC pipe in the shape of an upside-down T and then we just drilled the pipe in a way that it disperses the brine across the lane. That's the way we do it with all our larger trucks too."

Boyd credited street maintenance manager Ricky Colston with the design.

"It works out pretty well," he said.

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